Archive for December 2009

Goals for 2010

Published on December 31, 2009

In the spirit of it being New Year’s eve, I thought I’d share a few random goals I have for 2010:

  • Simplify CoLT and Googlebar Lite where possible
  • Actually release the next version of Paper Plus
  • Continue the improved 2009 trend of taking and posting more pictures
  • Back up data earlier and oftener
  • Get more exercise
  • Eat healthier fare (and cook more often)
  • ???
  • Profit!

Whatever the new year has in store, just remember this:

All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace.

Happy New Year! 😀

Steam Super Sale

Published on December 31, 2009

Steam is hosting a holiday sale through January 3rd, with some titles discounted as much as 80% off! I picked up a couple of indie games during this sale (and might grab a few more at these prices). The first title I picked up was Samorost 2, and it only cost $2.49. That’s still a little steep in my opinion, seeing as over half of the game is available for free on the web. But the title is a fun, cute adventure style game set in a very imaginative world.

The second title I picked up is by the same crew, and is called Machinarium. This game is much more substantial, and has a number of very difficult puzzles (I’m currently stumped on a few of them). The artwork is fantastic, the soundtrack is highly enjoyable, and the characters are adorable. There’s no dialog; each character speaks using a thought bubble. But the stories they tell are amusing. It’s hard not to fall in love with these characters, much in the same way I did with the Pixar movie WALL-E.

Be sure to check out the Steam store before January 3rd. There are some terrific discounts on some great games, so now’s the time to pick them up!

Flying is For the Birds

Published on December 28, 2009

After two separate incidents aboard inbound flights to Detroit, airports have stepped up security (again) for passengers. Gizmodo has posted a couple of articles on the new restrictions being seen at various places: The Unofficial Guide to Flying After the Underwear Bomb and Leaked: Homeland Security’s Post Underwear Bomb Airplane Rules. These rules are ridiculous. Passengers have to sit with nothing in their lap for the last hour of a flight, the flight crew cannot make announcements during the last hour, and in-flight services, such as live television, phone access, and wifi, are all to be disabled for the entire flight. This, along with additional baggage charges, is why I no longer fly, nor plan on doing so at any time in the near future. There’s no doubt that airplanes are terrific inventions, but these policies make this form of travel ridiculous.

What’s next? We all have to sit quietly, with our hands at our side, and our eyes closed for the whole flight? Will bathroom breaks be prohibited? Will people who need medication aboard a flight be denied that, because there’s a potential risk?

Let’s just face the facts: with rules like this, the terrorists have already won.

Reimagining Sherlock Holmes

Published on December 25, 2009

Sherlock Holmes has had a special place in my heart since I was quite young. I’ve read all of the stories, all of which I hold in high esteem. In high school, I even did a report (or two) on this character. Among all famous, fictitious detectives, he ranks as my all-time favorite (though Cadfael, Inspector Morse, and Inspector Lewis are nearly as enjoyable). Of all of the actor portrayals of this character, Jeremy Brett’s is the only one I will ever truly acknowledge. Mr. Brett’s take on Sherlock was fantastic, and spot-on with the character in the stories. He captured nuances and characterizations that no other actor had been able to do prior, and no one has done since.

That being said, I’m intrigued by the new Sherlock Holmes film being released. Robert Downey Jr. is a good actor (though I’d argue not in the same league as Jeremy Brett), and his take on the super-sleuth looks interesting. Some of the reviews I’ve read have been positive, so it’s a movie that is definitely on my radar. I’m not a fan of movie theaters, so I’ll happily wait until it gets released to DVD. In the mean time, I think it’s time to fire up an episode or two of Jeremy Brett’s work.

Torchlight Achievements

Published on December 19, 2009

A recent update to Torchlight has added achievements to the game. There’s no way to see them in game (which is a bummer), and I wish they had progress bars that gave you an idea of where you were in the midst of collecting each one. Those nits aside, this is a great addition to an already great game. As of this writing, I’m only 15% complete, but I look forward to trying to grab as many as I can. Some of them look awfully difficult! It’s a shame they didn’t have this in the game from the get go…

Update: Here’s the global achievement list for your perusal.

Changes at Netflix

Published on December 17, 2009

Earlier today, Netflix announced some interesting changes they’ve made to the site. These changes seem to speak volumes about where the company is headed. First off, the “Watch Instantly” tab is now the default view when you log in. This clearly indicates that Netflix is wholeheartedly committed to a future where media streaming is the norm. Is this the beginning of the end for DVDs?

The second change is a relocation of the friends feature; from a prominent tab up top to the very bottom of the page. This must be an indication of how many people actually use this part of the site.

All in all, these are some interesting changes that Netflix has rolled out. It’s will be interesting to see where they go from here.

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Crafting in Team Fortress 2

Published on December 13, 2009

The upcoming Demoman and Soldier updates to Team Fortress 2 will add a crafting system into the mix. Apparently, blueprints (i.e. “recipes”) will be available in some fashion that will show you how to combine items together to create new items. This is a bizarre addition to this game. With this announcement, players are already complaining that Team Fortress 2 is devolving into a role-playing game. To be fair, however, the lines between game genres is blurring over time. Borderlands is a great example of a first-person-shooter mixed with traditional role-playing-game elements.

I’m going to give Valve the benefit of the doubt with this upcoming update, though I agree this is a odd direction to take this game. Knowing Valve, however, I won’t be surprised if this change turns out to be a great addition to an already great game.

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Torchlight Review

Published on December 11, 2009

Having played through it a few times now, I thought I’d post a few thoughts on Torchlight, the action role-playing game I’ve talked about a time or two here on the site. For those who don’t already know, the game is essentially a Diablo 2 clone (with, what I would argue, are terrific updates). Read on for my take on this title.

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Hess Race Cars

Published on December 6, 2009

Every year around this time, the Hess Corporation, an independent energy company, advertises their “Hess Racing Cars” for Christmas. Apparently, they’ve been doing this for 45 years now, a fact I find quite surprising. According to their advertising, the cars are available at local Hess gas stations. They clearly must sell these cars to someone; otherwise they wouldn’t advertise year after year. But who buys these? I never think of a gas station as a place to go to buy stuff like this. As a kid, I never said “hey, let’s go toy shopping at our local gas station!” And I don’t know who would do that today. Maybe truck drivers pick this kind of thing up for their kids?

According to the Wikipedia article, these cars (especially the older ones) are considered collectibles and can fetch into the thousands of dollars, depending on the rarity and condition. Pretty amazing! Does anyone here have (or previously had) a Hess car? If so, what did you think about it?

Quitting Symantec

Published on December 2, 2009

For a long, long time now, I’ve run the Symantec anti-virus program (corporate edition) on my home desktop computer. I got the original binary from college and I’ve kept it ever since, undoubtedly breaking the license agreement in the process. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, however, I ditched the bloated, slow Symantec mess for the newer, freely available Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). Having read good things about the product, I figured I’d give it a try.

So far, so good. Boot times are noticeably faster, which is a big plus in my book. With Symantec, my boot times had become horrible; it would literally take 2 or 3 minutes for the machine to become usable. Now, it’s ready in about a minute or a minute and a half (still too long, in my opinion; maybe Windows 7 will fix that). MSE is also quite easy to use. The interface is intuitive, and updating happens auto-magically, with no need to schedule updates. Performing a quick scan took a little while, but seemed to run faster than Symantec did. To top it all off, the MSE memory footprint is much smaller, though it’s still one of the larger memory using apps on my system.

What do you guys use for anti-virus solutions? I’m pleased that Microsoft is offering a quality solution to this problem. And the price couldn’t be better.

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